Backed Syrian forces battle to capture last ISIL enclave

Backed Syrian forces battle to capture last ISIL enclave

The SDF launched a final push to clear the area from IS militants Saturday night after 20,000 civilians were evacuated from the area in the eastern province of Deir-el-Zour.

Bali said heavy fighting was going on inside Baghouz on Sunday, adding that an IS group counterattack was foiled early in the day.

Despite assurances from President Trump that ISIS territory will soon be "100 percent" captured, USA -backed forces continue to battle ISIS fighters in Syria.

There are an estimated 500 jihadists are holed up in the 3 square kilometre Baghouz area.

Some 600 people were able to reach SDF territory on Sunday after fleeing the fighting, the Observatory said.

The SDF, spearheaded by the Kurdish YPG militia, has driven Islamic State out of a swathe of territory in northern and eastern Syria over the last four years.

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced the formation of a joint US-Turkish task force to coordinate the US pullout from Syria.

U.S. President Donald Trump predicted Wednesday that the Islamic State group will lose by next week all the territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria.

US Central Command head Gen. Joseph Votel testifies before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, on February 5, 2019, in Washington.

Estimates of the number of fighters remaining in the pinprick of territory vary wildly from dozens to hundreds, but they are thought to include some of the most die-hard and committed extremists who have remained with the group to the bitter end.

The SDF said it has not been in communication or agreed the ceasefire with IS.

"During the U.S. withdrawal (from Syria) there should not be a vacuum that could be filled by terrorists or pro-regime elements", Cavusoglu stressed.

The fighting was concentrated near al-Omar field, Syria's largest.

Mushrooming black clouds rose over the embattled jihadist holdout in eastern Syria, as missiles and a warplane streaked through the sky.

However, the WSJ also noted that the Pentagon has yet to comment: "We are not discussing the timeline of the USA withdrawal from Syria", said a Pentagon spokesman. Including things the U.S. says it doesn't need.

However, Ankara says progress in the Manbij deal has been "sluggish" and slower than initially planned, due to what has been described as the disingenuous attitude of the U.S. Yet, officials of the two countries have geared up talks since President Trump's announcement of withdrawal in December 2018.

USA officials and Trump's own military advisers, however, have warned that losing its territorial hold does not mean that the Islamic State group is defeated, warning that IS could stage a comeback in Syria within six months to a year if the military and counterterrorism pressure on it is eased.

"ISIS remains an active insurgent group in both Iraq and Syria", noted a report last week by the Pentagon's Inspector General.

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